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“That man has such a stare-worthy, needs-to-be-grabbed-onto-in-handfuls ass,” Holly said, gazing a little dreamily at Jude’s backside. I would have been jealous had it been anyone but Jude’s childhood best friend. Holly, and only Holly, could make an honest observation about Jude’s ass without me going all jealous girlfriend on her.

“I mean, that’s something a girl could hold onto in bed,” Holly added, munching on a piece of popcorn.

A flash of heat flushed my cheeks, assigning a picture to that statement.

Like he could feel our eyes devouring his backside, Jude shifted his arm back and gave it a smack, throwing me a quick smirk over his shoulder before huddling up with a few of his starters.

Jude Ryder was all kinds of cruel.

“So,” Holly began, elbowing at my side, “you guys…?”

I glared over at her from the side.

“That was a firm no,” she muttered, hiding her smile behind the hot chocolate cup.

I watched as Jude and the guys took the field after the kick off. Number twenty-three’s name caught my attention. Where “Hopkins” had been stenciled in his jersey the entire season, tonight’s jersey had the word “Douche” written in black sharpie on a piece of duct tape. Jude took his payback seriously.

“Well, it hasn’t been for lack of trying,” I said, turning in my seat to face her. I was comfortable talking with Holly about Jude’s apparent inability to sleep with me because Holly was the epitome of nonjudgmental. I doubted she would have raised a brow had I divulged I had some sort of toe sucking fetish. “On my part, at least,” I added.

“You know it isn’t because he doesn’t want to, right?” she said, looking over at me. “Because the man wants you so bad he’s about to explode in his pants. He’s just hell bent on doing this whole thing right by you. He doesn’t want to screw anything up, and if you’re Jude, you believe that screwing up is in your nature.” She paused, nibbling on a piece of popcorn as Jude lined up behind his offensive line. I hopped up with the rest of the fans. “Just give him some time.”

“Much more time, and I’m going to implode and then whether it’s right or wrong to sleep with me won’t matter,” I responded, holding my breath as Jude crouched into position.

“Honey, I know the feeling,” Holly said. “This mare has been taken out to spring pasture since before little Jude.”

“God, Holly,” I said, almost choking on my kernel of popcorn, but then the center hiked the ball and I froze. Jude feinted to the side, then the other, arching the football back as Tony charged down the field. Jude’s arm blurred, the ball arching into a praise worthy spiral, ticking off the yards until it landed in Tony’s cradled arms at the fifteen.

The crowd exploded, pom-poms shaking, foam hands bouncing, fanatics chanting; it was more intense than any rock concert I’d attended.

“Damn!” Holly shouted over at me, after whistling through her teeth, “that boy isn’t only out there for ass candy.”

“He can play,” I said, underemphasizing. “Ass candy is just an honorary title.”

Holly smarted something back, but Jude was back in position and I tuned everything else out. This time, as soon as Jude caught the ball, he ran it. Dodging a couple of players that slipped by his line, he blazed a path past the ten, past the five, and the last few yards were wide open.

And we were on the board with six points less than a minute into the game. I knew there was no J in team, but those points were almost all thanks to number seventeen, Jude Ryder.

Gripping the rail in front of me, I jumped, hollering out at the field. Holly was screaming too, although hers was punctuated by “ass candy” every other word.

Jude dropped the ball in the end zone, having long abandoned the theatrics of scoring a touchdown after his first game. Something about running a ball into the end zone one to two times a game had a way of making theatrics a bit lackluster.

However, there was one opening touchdown tradition he hadn’t let die. I was already leaning over the railing before he’d jogged over the ten. It felt like half the dome’s eyes were on me because if any of them had been to a game, they knew why Jude Ryder was sliding his helmet off and who he was smiling at.

I’d never been one for making a scene or partaking in public displays of affection, but when it came to Jude, I’d take him anyway he offered himself to me. No matter if we were alone or the focus of thousands of crazed fans. When we were looking at each other the way we were now, everything faded into oblivion.

Shouldering a hole through his teammates slapping him on the back as he passed, he dropped his helmet before leaping into the air. His hands caught the top rail of the front row and, performing the hanging from the side of a barricade equivalent of a chin-up, he lifted himself up.

Leaning over farther, I grinned down at his sweat beaded face. “Show off,” I whispered, so close I could almost taste the salt of his skin.

His smile curved higher. “Come here,” he ordered, dropping his eyes to my lips.

Dropping my mouth to his, I tasted the salty sweat of his skin. And then I kissed him. The crowd exploded again, loving the show their star quarterback was giving them. But we weren’t doing it for them. This, we did for us. Everything we did as a couple we did for us.

He didn’t let me break away when I moved to. Instead, he somehow managed to hold himself with one arm while the other grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me back at him. He kissed me harder, so I couldn’t breathe and the stadium was spinning and, as expected, everything except for Jude faded away. I had totally and completely faded into him.

Then, leaning back, he pressed one last sweet kiss into my lips. “My god, Luce,” he breathed, the warmth of it coating my face, “how’s a man supposed to concentrate on football after that?”

“Good luck with that,” I answered, my voice as staggered as I’d guessed it would be.

“There better be more where that came from after the game,” he said, flashing an impish grin as he lowered himself down.

“Plenty,” I called down to him.

“Ryder!” The head coach hollered above the noise, “I sure as hell know you don’t mind making a fool of yourself, but quit making a fool of me and the rest of the team! Calm your dick down and focus!”

Jude rolled his eyes up at me before turning and heading back to the sideline.

“Good to see you too, Jude!” Holly yelled, crossing her arms and looking positively put out.

Spinning around, Jude extended his arms. “You know I love ya, Hol!”

“Yeah, yeah,” she muttered, waving him off.

And then a bronzed goddess put herself in Jude’s path, hands on her h*ps and giving him a look that made me see red all over again. She said something, but I couldn’t hear what. Although I knew that had I been a lip reader, I would have been throwing myself over the railing and slapping that suggestive little smile off her face.

Jude nodded in acknowledgement, reaching down to retrieve his helmet. Adriana moved faster, grabbing the helmet and swinging it out of his reach. Jude reached for it, but she dodged him, lifting it higher. Jude’s face wasn’t amused, and mine was enraged. This chick was resorting to playground tactics to get a boy’s attention. It was weak. And pathetic.

Reaching again for it, Adriana side-stepped, hanging it out of Jude’s grasp. He paused, hanging his hands on his hips, and blew out a breath. It looked like he said please, to which she shook her head. Then, her eyes landed on me before she tapped her cheek with her finger. She waited, holding his helmet away from him, making sure I was watching her. I was.

So when Jude leaned in and gave her a peck on the cheek, she got to witness the storm that clouded my face. Lowering the helmet, she handed it back to him, but not before she lifted a brow at me and settled a victorious smile in its place.

“Who is that bitch?” Holly said, sounding as enraged as I felt.

Glowering at her even after she’d spun around and rejoined the rest of her Spirit Sisters, I planned my revenge. “She’s about to be a dead bitch.”

CHAPTER FIVE

“Put this on,” Holly ordered me, throwing a wad of red cloth my way. Stopping it before it parachuted into my face, I held it in front of me. It was a strapless, slinky, knee-length dress.

“Why?” I asked. In a man’s world, this was considered hot. In a woman’s world, it was considered trashy.

“Because you’re going to beat that Vix bitch at her own game,” she sneered, unfolding a white halter dress that was considerably shorter than mine.

“Vix bitch,” I repeated as I slid Jude’s sweatshirt over my head. “It’s got a catchy ring to it.”

“That’s because her ancestors were the muse for the term.”

I chuckled as I fought with peeling my skinny jeans off my body. I was glad Holly was here. She’d all but held my hand through the rest of the game that Syracuse won, thanks to one Jude Ryder getting a total of seven passes into the end zone in one game. Between glaring holes into Adriana’s back and screaming at the top of my lungs after every completed pass Jude tossed, I was a drained wreck.

“What time is it?” I asked as Holly texted someone on her phone.

“’Bout time you got your ass into that dress and showed Vix Bitch that revenge is a dish best served with a smokin’ side of Lucy.”

I sighed and stepped into the dress.

“Just hurry, okay? The street’s already packed with cars and the team’s going to be rolling up soon. You want to be down there when Jude bursts in because you’re going to be the only thing he sees in that thing,” Holly said, shuffling out of her own clothes and sliding into the white dress.

It was a team tradition that Jude’s house hosted the home game after parties. There was never a shortage of women and alcohol, and inhibitions were always in short supply, so a wild time would and could be had by all. The last party the team had hosted here a few weeks back, Jude and I had just hid out in his dark room, petting the hell out of each other. I would be more than okay with a repeat of that tonight.

Tying the halter behind her neck, Holly tossed a cosmetics bag onto Jude’s bed and began sifting through its contents. Grabbing a few tubes, she marched towards me, wielding them like they were weapons.

“Hold still,” she ordered, uncapping what I guessed was black eyeliner.

“Make me,” I shot back, knowing arguing with Holly was futile.

“Don’t think I won’t.”

Giving in with a sigh, I closed my eyes and let her have her way with them. The girl lined, mascaraed, and glossed me in under a minute. She had a gift.

“What size shoe do you wear?” she asked, hurrying back over to her suitcase while I smacked my lips together.

“Seven and a half.”

“Ah, perfect.” Prying a pair of black, patent leather pumps from her bag, she tossed them on the floor by my feet.

I tried sliding my foot inside one, but it wasn’t going. Peering down at the size, I understood why. “These are sixes,” I said, wondering if my boots or barefoot would be the better option.

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